AAVSB mulls alternative medicine for model act

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KANSAS CITY — Model practice act standards embracing chiropractic and physical therapies likely will make the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB) agenda during the group's annual September conference.

KANSAS CITY — Model practice act standards embracing chiropractic and physical therapies likely will make the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB) agenda during the group's annual September conference.

AAVSB officials report that a Collaborative Practices Subcommittee meeting Feb. 5 resulted in draft practice standards incorporating the alternative modalities as well as parameters for working relationships between therapists and DVMs. This month, the group expects to send a rough copy to state licensing boards for review.

The proposed model language not only recognizes chiropractic and physical therapies, but outlines educational guidelines for practitioners of the modalities so they can be performed without direct DVM oversight. While the move might seem controversial, it's designed to lesson liability for veterinarians, says Charlotte Ronan, AAVSB Executive Director.

"With this model, the liability is assumed on the part of the professional as well as the referring veterinarian," she says. "Consumers are seeking these kinds of services, and we want to offer an avenue, which may work for some states and not others. It's a tool that's there if states want to use it."

Potential partnerships

One state it's worked for is Nevada, from which the AAVSB modification is patterned.

According to Debbie Machen, executive director of the Nevada Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (NBVME), the state has allowed chiropractic animal medicine for four years but just recently has incorporated physical therapy for pets. The board registers the therapists and assures they meet certain criteria to practice. So far, it's worked out well, she says.

"There have been no problems, no complaints by the public," Machen says. "Consumers were up in arms saying we need these services for treatment of our animals. Right now, we have two therapists certified in each field. They have to meet pretty stiff criteria."

Practice parameters

Nevada chiropractors must be licensed in the state for at least one year, be in good standing, certified by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association and complete annual continuing education once registered with NBVME.

Physical therapists also must be licensed in Nevada, be in good standing with the American Physical Therapy Association, complete 100 hours of course work and 125 hours of supervised clinical experience with animals with documentation provided for NBVME registration.

Patients are accepted only by chiropractic and physical therapists on a referral basis after first being evaluated by a veterinarian. No direct supervision is required, but physical therapists and chiropractors must send medical records to referring DVMs within a reasonable timeframe, Machen says.

Born from board meetings

The AAVSB initiative stems from collaborative talks with The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy and Federation of Chiropractic Licensing Boards.

While veterinarians might be leery about allowing alternative therapists to practice on animals, Ronan insists owners are clamoring for it. Instituting parameters along with regulations for alternative and complimentary therapies serves that demand and discourages backdoor practice, she says.

"We know there are members of other professions who are working on animals," Ronan says. "The public wants these services in many cases. This is an effort to try to find a way to answer that need."

Not binding

Besides, the AAVSB model practice act is not binding, she adds. While recognizing alternative therapies might cause a stir, Ronan stresses that model practice acts only provide a blueprint for state licensing agencies and legislators when creating veterinary medical regulations and standards. Compared to the 1964 American Veterinary Medical Association model practice act, AAVSB's guide, adopted in 2001, is relatively new

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